Over the last 20 years, the X-Men franchise has seen a lot of ups and downs. The first film was a groundbreaking step forward for comic book movies, but during the rise of the MCU and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, it's faded, becoming just another franchise. It's also tainted by being closely associated with Bryan Singer, who directed four of the film's seven main entries. (Though, he did just direct a Best Picture nominee that took in nearly a billion dollars worldwide, so maybe that's not such an issue.) But now that Disney has acquired Fox, this is the last iteration of these X-Men we'll ever see, as a reboot (and possible crossover with the Avengers) is imminent.
Whether the cast and crew knew that during filming is unclear, but whether this was intended to be the "final battle" (as it's been billed in advertisements) or not doesn't change the fact that this is just a shrug of a movie. It's certainly not the disaster that some feared, but there's nothing memorable or especially great about it either. Longtime producer Simon Kinberg makes his directorial debut, and he shows absolutely no zip behind the camera or on the page.
A rescue mission to save astronauts goes awry, leaving Jean (Sophie Turner) to absorb the energy of a solar flare. She survives, but it kicks off an evolution in her mutant powers, beyond what she can control. It moves in the exact way you'd imagine, even if you hadn't read the comics, seen the excellent arc on the animated series, or suffered through The Last Stand. But there are glimpses of other fascinating plot threads – a reservation for mutants led by Magneto (Michael Fassbender), the once-cozy relationship Charles had with the president souring, news reports of mutants being rounded up in internment camps – but they're all left unexplored, in favor of telling this story in the most perfunctory way possible. It's better than the truncated version we got in The Last Stand, but not by much.
It's a shame because the cast is committing to every bit of it. Even Jennifer Lawrence, who looked visibly bored during Apocalypse, is engaged. But I am baffled by Jessica Chastain here, and even more so by the choice of villains. Even if the D'Bari (a shape-shifting alien race) are part of the original Dark Phoenix Saga from the comics, they're introduced so poorly that they become just another generic group of antagonists. Their motivations aren't clearly defined, and by virtue of literally being an alien race learning English, their monotone speaking style makes them boring instead of ominous.
Dark Phoenix was a chance to do justice to one of the most famous comic book arcs of all time, and close out this line-up of the X-Men. On both accounts, it's a failure. It's a disappointment, but not a dumpster fire.